Winter Olympics 2014: GB sets ambitious medal target for Sochi Games - but who might deliver them?

UK Sport sets goal of three to seven podiums after investing £14m - we take a look at some of the GB contenders

Britain’s Winter Olympians have been set an ambitious target of bringing home the country’s best ever medal haul from next month’s Sochi Games. UK Sport, the body that funds elite Olympic sport, today revealed a goal of three to seven medals, a range that potentially takes Britain well beyond their previous best.

It is nearly 80 years since Britain won three medals at a Winter Olympics – the gold, silver and bronze collected in Garmisch-Partenkirchen in 1936 – and such has been the recent scarcity of podium places that at the last four Games Britain have gathered four medals in total. Should Team GB reach the upper end of their target, it will match nearly a third of Britain’s entire current total of winter medals. Since the first Winter Olympics in 1924, where Britain recorded its highest single Games tally of four, only 22 medals have been won by Britons in 90 years.

At Vancouver 2010 Amy Williams’ skeleton gold was Britain’s sole success but record funding – £14m in public and Lottery money has been spent on this Olympic cycle – and investment in coaching and expanding the support network and technology available to key winter sports has significantly raised hopes of succeeding in Russia.

Skeleton – now Britain’s signature winter event – again offers the best chance via Lizzy Yarnold and Shelley Rudman, respectively world No 1 and current world champion. Britain’s women curlers are world champions, while sports such as speed skating and freestyle skiing, a newcomer to the Games, also provide medal-winning potential.

 

“If we achieve three, that’s hugely significant,” said Liz Nicholl, UK Sport’s chief executive. “It’s an ambitious target and our hopes are high. We can all honestly say this squad of athletes will be the best supported and best prepared of any winter campaign. We have more potential across more sports going into these Games than we’ve ever had in the past. We’re confident these ranges are accurate.”

UK Sport set a target of 40 to 70 medals for London 2012, with Team GB winning 65. Infrostrada Sports, a statistical analysis company, forecast Britain would win 66 medals in London and, like UK Sport, also predicts a positive Winter Games with six medals.

Britain have been here before. The target for Vancouver was three medals and around Williams’ dramatic triumph were a succession of failures. But four years of background investment allied to the maturing of the likes of Eve Muirhead, the curling skip, and the short-track speed skater Elise Christie into regular medal winners in world cups and championships has lifted horizons. The introduction of new events at which Britain has leading performers, such as freestyle skiers James Woods and Katie Summerhayes and snowboarder Jenny Jones, has also raised hopes – and raised them realistically insists UK Sport, a body not prone to exaggerating expectations.

“The bottom line is we have a track record of success over the last 18 months,” said Simon Timson, UK Sport’s director of performance. “I can’t remember a time when we’ve had five world championship medallists in Olympic and Paralympic winter sport a year before the Games.”

The Winter Paralympics, which begin in March, have been given a target of two to six medals.

A view of the Olympic rings in Sochi A view of the Olympic rings in Sochi  

The rider for British optimism is that winter sports are more difficult to predict than summer ones. Conditions have a greater influence, while in sports like speed skating one slip can have dramatic consequences, such as when the Australian Stephen Bradbury won gold in 2002 after the rest of the field were wiped out in a crash and he skated through from last place for a freak victory.

“We’re confident in setting this target, but also know there are no guarantees in sport,” said Timson. “It’s open to the elements and down to people performing on the day. There’s less room for error and there’s less opportunity for success.”

UK Sport have set a target of one to two medals for ski and snowboard, one to two for curling, one for skeleton, bobsleigh and short-track speed skating. Of the six funded sports, skeleton has received the most with £3.45m, down to figure skating, which has been given £174,338 to back Nick Buckland and Penny Coomes, who today won bronze in the European Championships. Their Sochi target is a more modest top-10 placing.

It is a crucial Games for Britain’s winter sports. The funding more than doubled from the £5.8m for the Vancouver cycle and failure to meet UK Sports’ targets could leave them open to a reduction next time – part of the reason for Britain’s Olympic success is down to UK Sport’s ruthless approach to rewarding medal-winning sports and cutting funding for those that fail. The overall winter budget remains slight in comparison to the Summer Games. UK Sport will invest £283m towards Rio 2016. Britain’s final team of around 50 athletes – a similar number to Vancouver – will be announced on Wednesday. The Games begin on 7 February.

 

Voices
Lucerne’s Hotel Château Gütsch, one of the lots in our Homeless Veterans appeal charity auction
charity appeal
Life and Style
A woman walks by a pandal art installation entitled 'Mars Mission' with the figure of an astronaut during the Durga Puja festival in Calcutta, India
techHow we’ll investigate the existence of, and maybe move in with, our alien neighbours
Arts and Entertainment
Tony Hughes (James Nesbitt) after his son Olly disappeared on a family holiday in France
tv
News
people

Jo from Northern Ireland was less than impressed by Russell Brand's attempt to stage a publicity stunt

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Sport
Nabil Bentaleb (centre) celebrates putting Tottenham ahead
footballTottenham 4 Newcastle 0: Spurs fans dreaming of Wembley final after dominant win
Arts and Entertainment
The Apprentice candidates Roisin Hogan, Solomon Akhtar, Mark Wright, Bianca Miller, Daniel Lassman
tvReview: But which contestants got the boot?
Arts and Entertainment
Jim Carrey and Jeff Daniels ride again in Dumb and Dumber To
filmReview: Dumb And Dumber To was a really stupid idea
Arts and Entertainment
Sir Ian McKellen tempts the Cookie Monster
tvSir Ian McKellen joins the Cookie Monster for a lesson on temptation
News
i100
Travel
Tourists bask in the sun beneath the skyscrapers of Dubai
travelBritish embassy uses social media campaign to issue travel advice for festive holiday-makers in UAE
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Day In a Page

Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton: The power dynamics of the two first families

Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton

Karen Tumulty explores the power dynamics of the two first families
Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley with a hotbed of technology start-ups

Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley

The Swedish capital is home to two of the most popular video games in the world, as well as thousands of technology start-ups worth hundreds of millions of pounds – and it's all happened since 2009
Did Japanese workers really get their symbols mixed up and display Santa on a crucifix?

Crucified Santa: Urban myth refuses to die

The story goes that Japanese store workers created a life-size effigy of a smiling "Father Kurisumasu" attached to a facsimile of Our Lord's final instrument of torture
Jennifer Saunders and Kate Moss join David Walliams on set for TV adaptation of The Boy in the Dress

The Boy in the Dress: On set with the stars

Walliams' story about a boy who goes to school in a dress will be shown this Christmas
La Famille Bélier is being touted as this year's Amelie - so why are many in the deaf community outraged by it?

Deaf community outraged by La Famille Bélier

The new film tells the story of a deaf-mute farming family and is being touted as this year's Amelie
10 best high-end laptops

10 best high-end laptops

From lightweight and zippy devices to gaming beasts, we test the latest in top-spec portable computers
Michael Carberry: ‘After such a tough time, I’m not sure I will stay in the game’

Michael Carberry: ‘After such a tough time, I’m not sure I will stay in the game’

The batsman has grown disillusioned after England’s Ashes debacle and allegations linking him to the Pietersen affair
Susie Wolff: A driving force in battle for equality behind the wheel

Susie Wolff: A driving force in battle for equality behind the wheel

The Williams driver has had plenty of doubters, but hopes she will be judged by her ability in the cockpit
Calls for a military mental health 'quality mark'

Homeless Veterans campaign

Expert calls for military mental health 'quality mark'
Racton Man: Analysis shows famous skeleton was a 6ft Bronze Age superman

Meet Racton Man

Analysis shows famous skeleton was a 6ft Bronze Age superman
Garden Bridge: St Paul’s adds to £175m project’s troubled waters

Garden Bridge

St Paul’s adds to £175m project’s troubled waters
Stuff your own Christmas mouse ornament: An evening class in taxidermy with a festive feel

Stuff your own Christmas mouse ornament

An evening class in taxidermy with a festive feel
Joint Enterprise: The legal doctrine which critics say has caused hundreds of miscarriages of justice

Joint Enterprise

The legal doctrine which critics say has caused hundreds of miscarriages of justice
Freud and Eros: Love, Lust and Longing at the Freud Museum: Objects of Desire

Freud and Eros

Love, Lust and Longing at the Freud Museum
France's Front National and the fear of a ‘gay lobby’ around Marine Le Pen

Front National fear of ‘gay lobby’

Marine Le Pen appoints Sébastien Chenu as cultural adviser